Sibling visit

A proposed Christmas in Napier was enough to finally get Adele and James to visit me. As it transpired, it was an early Christmas without the full complement of Pheasants. The warm dry December that allowed me to paint an exterior wall of my house at every spare moment continued for the six days they were here. It was wonderfully warm (Adele may have melted a bit) which meant we spent much time outside visiting many local attractions – many of which I’d not quite managed to get to previously.

First up, Shine Falls was about an hour drive north – the furtherest afield we’d venture during the whole stay. Situated in the Boundary Stream mainland island, I’d gotten close on previous bikepacking trips, but had never made it to the tallest falls in Hawke’s Bay.

Leaving the car, the open pasture quickly narrowed to walking up a bush clad gorge.

Purported to be an hour’s walk, the bushwalking reminded Adele and I of many such walks we did as a family when younger.

But we are fitter and stronger than we used to be; half an hour later – waterfalls. The mist and downdraft generated cooled us nicely after the warm later afternoon stroll. Pheasants don’t seem to have the “swim at every opportunity” gene, so we left that to James.

The walk down the valley only took twenty minutes so it turned out that the drive each way took longer than the entire walk! But that didn’t dampen our enthusiasm for being outdoors, discovering new sights and enjoying the native forest; there may have also been ice cream on the return journey.

Adele was determined that my house should be decorated for Christmas – as I’m not usually home for Christmas, this has never occurred to me. I managed to minimise unnecessary consumption and am quite pleased with the lights adorning my deck, the miniature tree and tinsel down the bannisters. With all the weatherboard painting my barbecue had remained neglected; but with visitors keen to cook amazingly, it made a reappearance.

The following morning, mountain bikes were assembled and loaded for a quick introduction to the local trails.

Since the trees have been cleared from Gateway, the views to work and home have really opened up. The price of that being part of the trail network is now exposed to the sun.

The tides lined up well to walk along the beach to Cape Kidnappers. Cape Kidnappers, which I’d frequently looked over to from the end of my street, marveling at the cliffs rising out of the Pacific. With a quick turnaround from mountain-biking, we rushed out the door, stopped at Clive for pies, parked at Clifton and began the nine kilometre beach walk beneath the cliffs. The day was hot, but there was sufficient breeze that it was bearable as we made good time pounding along the increasingly revealed hard sand.

Leaving Clifton and looking back around the bay towards Napier.

The cliffs did stretch a long way, but I did at least know that before deciding we should walk rather than take the tourist bus through the sheep station.

At Black Reef we saw our first gannet colony.

Followed closely with the best views of the cape we would get, as the route then left the beach to climb above the cape.

Gannets! There were, literally, thousands.

How fascinating they were as they nested, fed young fur-ball chicks, landed, partners cutely preened each other on one’s return, took off, fought and generally made quite a racket. Very much worth the long walk – well, it was a long time to be walking on a flat surface in the sun. I really noticed all the walking over the following days – it turns out just two weeks of using spare time clambering over a scaffold and not walking around the Hill has quite an effect.

Heading back to the beach to return to Clifton, Black Reef is off the point at the end of that beach.

We were pretty spent that evening, so had a restful one waiting for good friends Dan and Jacqui to arrive from New Plymouth. There ensued a Saturday of winery tours, on which I drove everyone around – which was far more enjoyable than it sounds. I did get fed plenty of tasty food and got to do another staple Hawke’s Bay activity that I’d sadly neglected over the last thirty months.

Saturday night was the aforementioned early Christmas celebration which consisted of fantastic food, predictably lame crackers, great friends and receiving the big outdoor bean bag on which I’m currently sitting typing this. Sunday morning was equally slow to start – we went back out to the Mill Block to ride a few more trails in the heat. That necessitated a stop on the way back to town to swim in a river before Jacqui and Dan left for home.

I’d been keen to show off both the views from and bike trails of Te Mata Peak, so that was Monday morning sorted. Shielded from the blazing sun on the lower half of the climb, we did at least have a bit of a breeze to cool us on the more exposed parts. The peak was crawling with cruise ship tourists, many of whom you’d think had never seen mountain bikes before judging by their amusing comments. Even on a poor-weather day I appreciate the varying views – this day we enjoyed picking out the various places we’d visited as we turned and headed down most of the trail options.

Somehow I’d forgotten than Emma and Brent have a pool; really, cooling off in there was not the real reason we visited. Lunch at Chalk and Cheese was topped off by irresistible cheese tasting, which may be almost as good as wine tasting – so much delicious cheese, we may have bought a bit. With the mercury through thirty degrees Celsius, how could I not take my guests to the oldest ice creamery in the country? It was plain to see how they’ve been trading for ninety-odd years – delicious.

Somewhere in here I think there was another Napier Hill walk (still one of my favourite things to do out my front door), but a week later those six days are a bit of a blur of activity. The final day of the visit was spent packing bikes before a final art deco drive and tasty lunch on a patio down at West Quay (a kilogram of mussels, you say? Don’t mind if I do) – nice to do that as I so often ride home from work and see people drinking at Shed 2 and think how lovely it looks.

Just like that it was time for the trip to airport, plans for future trips were made and goodbyes said. It was worth the wait, Hawke’s Bay definitely turned on cracking weather which allowed much activity with dear family.

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